One of the most interesting aspects about learning Spanish in a tropical country like Costa Rica is that festivities might be quite different from what you are used to. Christmas and New Year, for example, are lived in distinct ways -- no movie scene snow or cold winter here! Actually, December and January bring very sunny days that gateway into the dry season, which is our “summer”.
This means that after a great Christmas family dinner, many Ticos decide to welcome the New Year at the beach, with lots of coastal sun, sand and heat. Others prefer to go to the mountains, where it is cooler, and some decide to stay home and share with loved ones.
As most of the country's population is Catholic, the tradition is to attend Christmas and New Year's masses. During this time of year there is always a special place at churches and at people’s homes that is dedicated to the famous “pasito”, or Christmas nativity with the Holy Family, which is usually placed near the Christmas tree and the gifts.
Many "pasitos" are real artwork, including figurines of Baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and the three Kings in diverse materials and sizes. Placed in the middle of these picturesque scenes are farm animals, roads, hills, streams, villages, and even characters from Costa Rican folklore and legends. For an added effect, evergreen plants and Christmas lights help contribute to the intricate scenery.
Some delicacies of Costa Rican gastronomy are commonly enjoyed around Christmas time, especially the popular pork or bean tamales, which consist of corn dough with fillings, such as: rice, chopped carrot and bell pepper, chickpeas, and a chunk of pork or ground beans -- all carefully wrapped, boiled and served in banana leaves, the latter being the secret for the tamales’ great taste!
During December and January it is very common for Costa Rican families to gather to share tamales, either at lunch, dinner or coffee time.
After Christmas, even well into February, tamales continue to accompany festivities including the traditional Baby Jesus rosary, a custom celebrated with family, neighbors, and friends before the "pasito" and the Holy Family are put away. Some rosaries involved big celebrations with live musicians.
Both at Christmas and at the rosaries, it is traditional to serve eggnog, a sweet drink with a characteristic yellow color, which is made of eggs, milk, rum, and cinnamon.
Without a doubt, to learn Spanish in Costa Rica is a great experience. If you happen to be around during Christmas and New Year, be sure to try tamales and eggnog.
Whether you are a beginner in Spanish or want to perfect your language skills, CPI Spanish school in Costa Rica tailor designs your curriculum for you and your family with the best native Spanish professors.
Costa Rica is the perfect place for Spanish immersion and the best season of the year is just beginning. For more information, visit: https://www.cpi-edu.com/ and to learn more about Costa Rican traditions, we invite you to read our blog.